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New Oʻahu triage center 'bridges a gap' in homeless services

IHS Imi Ola Piha Triage Center Room.jpg
Casey Harlow / HPR

The Institute for Human Services, a local nonprofit focused on managing homelessness in the state, unveiled its new triage facility ʻImi Ola Piha on Wednesday.

The center is located in Honolulu's urban core and is comprised of eight beds to provide urgent medical, mental health and detox care for those who are chronically homeless.

According to IHS, this is the first community-based medically-monitored detox facility on Oʻahu.

IHS executive director Connie Mitchell said the center bridges a gap in homeless services.

"We saw that there were some people on the street that sometimes we catch them at a time where they're ready for treatment. There wasn't a really easy way for them to access it," said Mitchell.

IHS Imi Ola Piha Triage Center Homeless Services.jpg
Casey Harlow / HPR
IHS received funding from the City and County of Honolulu, the State and community partners for its new ʻImi Ola Piha triage center.

"This will help people to be able to detox safely. It also allows people who need psychiatric care to access that really readily as well."

Mitchell told HPR that the center will also help individuals receive medication for their health conditions.

IHS has partnered with the Honolulu Police Department to direct individuals to the facility who want to enter rehab, or get help.

"Our whole police department see most of them," said Mitchell.

"Sometimes, if you catch them in a lucid moment, they really want help, and we can provide the help. Because when you're dealing with withdrawal, it is not easy."

The facility received funding from the City and County of Honolulu, the State and community partners.

The center won't turn away people if there is available room, said Mitchell.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said the City was able to contribute $3.5 million from a community development grant during the distribution of COVID-era funding. Those funds helped IHS purchase and renovate the facility, which was formerly a pet hospital.

"It's not the be all, end all. But this triage center is an important element to have," Blangiardi said. "This should have been part of the equation some time ago. And I'm just overjoyed that it's finally happening now."

Both Mitchell and Blangiardi hope to expand the services the center provides to other parts of Oʻahu. Currently, the center will focus on serving individuals within four districts in Honolulu's urban core.

"I've already heard our representatives talking about that, and our Council [members]," said Mitchell. "So I'm hoping others will emulate it and establish one in different districts, as well. So that we really have one easily accessible for folks."

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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